May 27, 2012 – Byhalia, Ohio
The fields of Ohio roll as American flags ripple from front porches.
Farm houses adorn the road where silos stand as markers in the distance and a bus filled with soccer players and coaches from 12 countries chug along the two lane highway past Range’s Belly Acre and the Mt. Victory Drive through.
You can practically taste the tangy-sweet of street-side lemonade and imagine the yard sale bargains spelled upon the underside of card board boxes.
It’s fitting, that as the Fire begin its foray into the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the nation’s longest standing team tournament, that the team does so by traversing US-23 N and the nooks and crannies of America’s Midwest. Teams from Chicago have captured the U.S. Open Cup nine times collectively, with the Fire at the top of the list with four.
One can imagine a bus, not too dissimilar from this one, carrying a group of immigrant Czechs through the dairy farms and corn fields of the Midwest as Chicago Sparta captured the 1938 U.S. Open Cup (or as it was called then, the National Challenge Cup).
The A.A.C Eagles, a club of Polish immigrants, found early success making deep tournament runs while riding buses across a post-World War II America, and finally captured the crown in 1990, beating the Brooklyn Italians in Indianapolis. You’d have to suspect bus rides home for both sides were joyous ones.
And here we sit, Beats headphones on and decorated in adidas gear working our way to one of the bedrocks of the American Midwest - Detroit, for a Tuesday Open Cup match against the PDL's Michigan Bucks.
Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas looks back at the group and remarks, “I like these small towns, they have character."